Following an early flight at 7am from Gatwick to Aberdeen, we arrived in the scenic village Braemar in the Cairngorms national park at around 1pm. Kate, the provider of Rucksacks accommodation, greeted us as we sleepily got off the bus. Luckily Braemar was the end of the line, as otherwise we might’ve missed it!
Checking the weather forecast we were pleasantly surprised. We seemed to be incredibly fortunate to have arrived in the Cairngorms during one of its very few sunny weeks of the year. With the good news having put a spring in our step, we slowly climbed our first hill, Morrone (859m). It was a pleasant albeit sleepy hike and we spotted the famous black grouse as a bonus, so hey. Returning to Rucksacks we made some lovely tomato and vegetable pasta for dinner, perfect for another day of fellwandering.
The next day we caught up on some sleep, starting our walk at 10am and headed towards the Munro, Lochnagar (1155m). There was so much sun we got sunburnt. In Aberdeen. I know.
Now we had to decide which route to take back to Braemar. Awkwardly, the river Dee does not have a bridge in Braemar which forced us to spend about an hour walking on the road on the way back. It wasn’t too bad since the sun was still shining and the view was still quite picturesque.
Day three was even more eventful to put it mildly.
The lack of a bridge in Braemar proved to be quite an issue. To get around it we found a section of the river which was shallow enough for us to cross. We cautiously walked across the fast-flowing freezing water with our bare feet on the slippery riverbed stones, with the sun still burning bright. Only three of us made it across as Hardeep wasn’t particularly keen on walking in cold water. Hardeep insisted we go on without him, and so we did (sorry).
We walked along quite a long track with a steady incline (not steep enough to get left behind). The sun was insane and the landscape was full of dry red little bushes. I couldn’t believe we were in Scotland – it was like the plane we took from Gatwick went south instead of north.
With quite a strong pace it wasn’t long until we summited the south top (1177m). It’s weird when the sun is shining yet you find yourself treading through snow.
On the way back we didn’t manage to get to the river crossing before dark because we managed to miss the path. This meant having to contour around the steep slope with those red bushes scraping our legs. Arguably it wasn’t the best terrain for walking and we were all relieved when we completed the descent down to the river. Eventually we were faced with a dreary 8km walk on a desolate road in the dark, with only one torch between us. Our spirits were low as it was late (9pm) and we had run out of food. We tried running but it didn’t last long. Luckily a car approached and we were delighted when we found out that it was two Irish mountain rescue chaps! They drove us all the way back to the Co-op in Braemar which we made it to just before closing time to pick up ready meals and pizza. We were not up for cooking after that 42km walk! The fourth day was a rest day as after a quite some eventful days the group decided to take it a little easier. I began the day with a traditional Scottish breakfast including lorne square sausage and black pudding. The others weren’t interested in such delicacies. Obviously only the enlightened amongst us shovel grease down their throat for enjoyment.
The others decided to stretch their legs and so climbed the local hill Creag Choinnich (538m). The route was part of a permanent orientating course though we were too tired from previous days to complete it. A quick ascent to the top gave us a fine view of Braemar and the surrounding hills. Martin was also interested in the difference between Caledonian and alp pine trees, the former looking far more impressive, though other group members didn’t see the nuance. We then went back for Lunch. Before sunset, Martin ran up Morrone(859m) while Hardeep hid in the bushes, capturing some amazing shots of a herd of red deer!
Hardeep also returned from another village called Ballater, “knocked off the bucket list” and we ate a tasty vegetable curry dinner. In the evening, we completed a 500 piece puzzle of Europe (on the eve of the article 50 trigger), though the map was many years out of date…
The next day Hardeep left to continue exciting travels across much of Scotland. Martin and Ollie were given a lift to the Lin of the Dee by Kate to continue exploring, They took the long way to the entrance of the Lairig Ghru and Corrour bothy. They climbed up to the Devil’s Point (completely cloudy/misty at last) and then tried to get to Cairn Toul but retreated at Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir due to the icy conditions resulting from a total white-out in some areas. On the way back, a negotiation concluded with one Oreo every 2km on the road to keep spirits up. We had dinner (cheese and tomato sauce pasta) and slept. On the final day we flew from Aberdeen to Luton.